Sunday, October 28, 2012

Frankenstorm

I was tempted to title this post "Boring Weather in Tucson," but then who would read it? Like most people this weekend, I'm spending a lot of time tuned to The Weather Channel watching the updates on this major storm. Although it has absolutely no impact on Arizona, I still have family on Long Island and friends in Massachusetts and I'm concerned for them.

One of the advantages of living in southern Arizona is that you rarely pay attention to weather reports. You don't have to. Most days are warm and sunny. It gets hot in the summer. In the fall, nights are in the mid-fifties and days in the mid-eighties. You get to turn the air conditioning off. It gets colder in the "winter," but if there's anything of significance, like a hard freeze, the local news programs go berserk reminding you of The Three Ps (pipes, pets, and plants). Since homes don't have basements and water pipes are above ground coming into the house, you need to wrap them in insulation when it stays below freezing overnight. Pets need to be brought indoors. Sensitive plants need to be covered.

We don't have hurricanes, tornadoes, or blizzards. No earthquakes, either. Yes, we sometimes have severe monsoon thunderstorms with flooding in the summer, but most times you can pull into a Starbucks and order a latte and wait an hour until it passes and the roads have drained. (Unless you're unfortunate enough to need to use a road that has been constructed where a wash that drains the higher elevations passes over it. Some of those places take days before they're passable.) Sometimes there are haboobs, huge dust storms, but those tend to take place north of Tucson.

I kind of miss these major weather events. There are no "snow days" off from school or work. You don't get to anticipate how bad it will be this time for days on end. And you don't get to bring out all your old storm stories and relive your memories.

When I lived in Massachusetts, the storm that all other storms were measured against was The Blizzard of 78. Snow started falling on a Monday morning and didn't quit until Tuesday evening. Winds were hurricane-force. And, as the pictures in the link above show, one of the most devastating effects was the flooding from an angry ocean. Because snow hadn't started falling before dawn, people headed off to work as usual, expecting the storm to blow out to sea. This is common with storms along the east coast. You never know exactly what you're going to get until it happens. By the time people realized how bad it was, it was too late for many to get home safely. Roads were clogged with cars buried under the snow. People were stranded far from home.

On Long Island, it was always the Hurricane of 1938. They didn't name hurricanes back then the way we do now, but this one earned the nickname of The Long Island Express. This one changed the coastline of Long Island, cutting Shinnecock Inlet through the barrier beach on Long Island's south shore. Weather forecasting wasn't very sophisticated then and this storm took everyone by surprise.

I went to college at Michigan State. That's where I learned about tornadoes. Although one never came close to the campus, there were several times we ran down the stairs to the basement of our dorm to wait out a threat. I'll never forget the odd look to the sky on those days.

Now I live through storms vicariously, watching on television and congratulating myself on picking such a safe place to live. But I don't get to stock up on candles and batteries and junk food and watch the wind howling past my windows. I don't get to huddle under blankets with a book while a snowstorm rages outside. No going down to the seawall to watch the waves crash over it. And it's months before the next monsoon season. Weather really is boring in Tucson.

Meanwhile, for those of you in the path of Hurricane Sandy enveloped in a Nor'easter, stay safe, my friends. My prayers are with you.
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